Joanne B Kaar

A hand stitched herbarium. Aprons continued to inspire during lock down 2020. Using an old red bed sheet, I hand stitched in white cotton, a selection of flowers in my pressed herbarium. Incorporating the tapes that hold the flowers in place on the herbarium sheet and their names into my design, the choice of red is no accident, as it also tells a botanical story as Type specimen are easily identified by a red band on folders in herbarium collections.

It didn’t escape my notice that these aprons are the original PPE worn by women while doing chores in and around the home. 

With local landowners permissions granted, I’m delighted to be able to extend my pressed herbarium collection further to peat bogs and the coast. These pressed herbarium sheets are beautiful objects that tell their own story. They open up a world of botanical travel over time, now stored in museums, botanical gardens and more.

40 years of comfort

Standing in my field on Dunnet Head in the north coast of Scotland, Caithness, I took this photo of Brough village where I grew up and my parents still live. The Pentland Firth and the Orkney islands are in the distance.  Made to measure for my dad, this jumper was hand knitted in the late 1970s by Camilla Eames knitwear in Orkney. It was purchased from her first shop in Victoria St. where my dad remembered seeing a small coal fire at the back of the room.  The abstract patterned jumper is a mix of dark browns rusty oranges, and greys, all very evocative of the heather covered peaty landscape in the north of Scotland. Taken in 1977, one photo is of me with my dad in our trailer of peat, dug for fuel to keep our house warm, another photo is of the peat stack. 

Handed down to my husband, the jumper was in need of repair. In 2018, while maker in residence for the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador at The Old Cottage Hospital in Norris Point, I invited the public to bring me their woollen garments in for repair. I titled my residency project ‘On The Mend’.  My dad turned me a wooden darning dolly (mushroom shaped) to use during the residency, and to start things off, I brought two garments with me to mend – one was this 40 year old jumper.

Still a favourite, but beyond repair, using only the wool from the jumper, I transformed it into this ‘twiddle muff’, a comforter for those with restless hands. Before I unravelled it, my dad wore it while leaning on his peat spade near to where we used to cut peats on Dunnet Head.  Inspired by the colours of the jumper, and landscape around me, I stiffened some of the wool strands giving the feel of heather roots inside the muff.  Inspired by the traditional thrummed mitts of Newfoundland, I also incorporated many soft strands of wool and retained my mending made while in Newfoundland – these are a the series of padded circles inside one end of the muff, near the rim. The wooden darning dolly is inside the muff.

In my search for info about the Orkney knitter, I was interviewed by BBC Radio Orkney reporter, Huw Williams. This resulted in many enthusiastic responses from listeners who knew or once worked for Camilla.  Even Huw’s mother has two cherished Camilla Eames knitwear garments!  My dad still has brochures from the 1980s The Tent, Edinburgh Festival’s Craft Fair in Princes St Gardens, where my parents, Liz and Michael O’Donnell exhibited their decorated turned wood and Camilla Eames exhibited her knitwear.  Many suggested she moved to Edinburgh and then possibly to Africa.   A further search found this  “…Mozambique: Camilla Eames has joined the Visual Arts School in Maputo as a Textiles Teacher…” but the links were broken and I’ve been unable to find out any more.    Commissioned  by Bruno Vinhas,  the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador gallery director, this work will be exhibited as part of Sensorius in 2021 at their gallery in St John’s, Newfoundland.

Find out more information about Joanne B Kaar on her website and Twitter account.